Lobbyists offered reprieve, registry law delayed
New Brunswick's lobbyists will not have to worry about disclosing their corporate interests for a little longer because a proposed law to regulate the industry will not be passed by the time the legislature adjourns Friday.
Premier David Alward's government promised a bill after it was revealed that friends of former Liberal premier Shawn Graham became consultants and were paid to set up meetings with his government.
Last week, Government House Leader Paul Robichaud introduced a bill to force lobbyists to register, identify their clients and who they're lobbying for.
But the bill will not be passed by the time the legislature adjourns Friday afternoon.
Robichaud defended the delay, saying the postponement of the proposed law can be chalked up to a simple culprit.
"We're having some issue with the technology. The software will not be ready for lobbyists to get registered," Robichaud said.
When the legislature adjourns, it is unlikely to return until November. Robichaud said he will reintroduce the bill in the fall.
Until then, New Brunswickers will remain unaware of who's been hired to influence government decisions.
Opposition Leader Victor Boudreau said he wonders if the Tories really want a law considering the delay.
"They introduced it to be able to say they introduced it, but they haven't done anything with it since," Boudreau said.
But the Tories have already gone farther than the Liberals, who promised a bill in 2006 and never introduced one.
Independent registrar planned
Lobbyists are paid consultants or employees of a corporation or organization who arrange meetings with government officials or try to influence decisions.
Lobbying is not illegal and under the proposed law, lobbyists would be forced to disclose who they were working for and their activities to a new Office of the Registrar of Lobbyists.
The registrar will be a new independent office of the legislature.
The legislation is similar to the law that exists in Ottawa and some provinces.
The proposed bill establishes a broad definition of lobbying that is intended to capture any attempt to influence an elected official or a civil servant over matters related to government policy, legislative and regulatory matters.
When the law comes into place, lobbyists will have to register their activity with respect to MLAs, cabinet ministers, staff members and employees in the civil service.
Lobbyists will be forced to sign up with the registrar and update their client list every six months. The proposed law will also impose fees on the different classes of lobbyists.
Any lobbyists who fail to disclose their activities or make false or misleading statements to the registrar will be subject to stiff fines.
A first offence could see a lobbyist fined a maximum of $25,000 and a second or subsequent offence could lead to a $100,000 fine.